OK, so you’ve recruited some Scouts, you’ve recruited some adult leaders, you’ve done some “pre-launch” activities, maybe on your own, maybe with another unit – but when can you start to plan what your new Scouts BSA troop of girls will do in the first few months of the troop, in the first year, and beyond?
When? Right Now. Get started. Let the girls go plan.
But what if we don’t have a full, formal Patrol Leaders Council yet? After all, the young women are not yet registered Scouts until February 1, so technically they are not installed as youth officers – so doesn’t that mean we have to wait?
- Get started right now!
But what if we really don’t have enough girls yet to form a troop? We only have 2 or 3 – so we should probably wait.
- Get started right now!
- Frankly, a small troop that is also a single patrol often will not have a “PLC” at all: you’ll have a patrol, with a Patrol Leader, Assistant, Quartermaster, etc., and have Patrol Meetings for planning, not PLC meetings.
Shouldn’t we wait until we have 12 or 15 or more Scouts? That way, we’ll have multiple patrols, and a full Patrol Leaders Council like the big troops.
- Get started right now!
- The enemy of a really good PLC now is the Perfect PLC later.
- And when you do get big, at startup you might still invite the Scouts who are not yet officers to witness how the PLC works – and during planning PLCs from time to time their Patrol Leaders might then meet with just their patrol on key issues.
What Do We Want To Do – What Are We Going To Do? People will want to join a program more if they know what they will really do – it’s harder to get people to commit to join something if the activities are ambiguous and the calendar a blank slate. Let the girls tell you what they want to do, and if needed to “prime the pump”, give the girls a menu of activities they might want to do:
- Do they want biking or badges or both?
- Are they interested in hiking or caving or canoes and kayaks?
- Shooting sports? Fishing? Rock Climbing and Rappelling? COPE?
- Snakes and Lizards and Frogs and Toads? Trees and ferns and lichens and mold?
- Pioneering? Performance? Orienteering and geocaching? Cooking? Robotics?
- Service Projects? Civic Knowledge? First Aid? Leadership Training?
Proto-PLC and Proto-Patrol Meetings. Once you get any interested girls, let a “proto-PLC” form for planning, or for patrol sized troops, have Patrol Meetings for planning. The Scoutmaster of the new troop should advise the girls about how it’s going to be their troop, not the Scoutmaster’s troop, not the parents’ troop, not a patrol in the troop of boys, but a troop that they run, that they lead, that does what they want to do. And the Scoutmaster and other adult leaders and Committee exist to work with the Scouts to support their plans as best they can.
Planning Tools. You can start into full fun program planning with the girls, even before you officially charter, register and launch. For resources on troop planning, see:
- For annual planning, https://troopleader.org/annual-planning-conference/ describes how to do an annual planning conference.
- For monthly planning, https://troopleader.org/patrol-leaders-council/ describes that, and how the Patrol Leaders Council operates.
- For Adventure Planning, http://bsatap.org/ has more detail that you can ever want.
- The Troop Leader Guidebook Appendix at https://filestore.scouting.org/filestore/pdf/512-150_Appendix(15)_WEB.pdf has many useful resources.
- For Program Planning, https://troopleader.org/program-features/ has plenty of ideas for the girls to consider about what they would like to do.
- Here’s a PLC piece from Clarke Green a volunteer with many great ideas posted at https://scoutmastercg.com.
But But But … OK, now a lot of those linked materials are sort of pie-in-the-sky, the perfect planning process for the perfect troop registered in the Utopia District of the Unicorn Council – and we all know that the perfect troop doesn’t really exist, nor does Utopia, and there is no Unicorn. No worries. All Scouting is Local, and everyone is on a journey: your new troop is taking beginning steps. Things that you should not worry about and that should not hold you back from planning now include:
- Your Scouts find the full formal “program planning conference” to be too much!
- Not to worry – take it in bits and pieces as you can.
- Focus on the most important things – what they think is important, and easy items to agree to do.
- None of your Scouts have any experience at all with this – all are young, and none have any Scouting background.
- Not to worry – many troops start this way.
- Just adjust your coaching accordingly: for now, you’ll need to be more of a guide, and later you’ll be able to sit back and let them lead.
- Your Scouts might not come up with a complete calendar.
- Not to worry – at least get something on the calendar.
- Especially Summer Camp, and monthly outings in advance to prepare.
- Your Scouts might want to change events later because they didn’t think things through, or new members join who want different activities.
- Not to worry – everyone changes plans.
- As new members join, bring them into the planning.
- After all, you don’t plan just once a year, you plan all year long. Especially when you’re just launching a new troop.
- Unlike your troop of boys, your Scouts don’t have a template from “last year”.
- Not to worry – this might be an opportunity to best find out what the girls want.
- And as a coach and guide, you can offer a “menu” of examples of what some troops do to add to the ideas of the girls.
- Our troop of boys doesn’t want to invite the troop of girls to join them on any activities or meetings.
- Not to worry – that’s their right, and that may be their loss!
- So your girls will truly be their own leaders.
- Another option: maybe contact other troops of girls, and share notes about how they plan. You might also do joint activities with them.
- Our troop of boys invited our troop of girls to join them on their activities and meetings, but we don’t want to do all of those.
- Not to worry – that’s natural. Not all of the boys want to do all of the activities either (in fact, some patrols form around a common interest, like a backpacking patrol or a biking patrol).
- Just because the troop of boys invites the troop of girls to do an activity doesn’t mean that the troop of girls must join them.
- We’re not sure which adult leaders will be able to attend which campouts and treks.
- Not to worry – let the girls make the plan, and then use it as a challenge to the parents.
- This is not unlike Scouts planning to go to Philmont or Northern Tier or Seabase, and only when they make their commitment do some of their parents step up, register as leaders, and attend.
- Plus, one way to recruit adults to be registered leaders is to let the Scouts recruit them: “Mom, if you don’t register and go with us, we can’t go!”
How can an existing troop of boys help in this startup process?
- If they are willing and cooperative and functioning, you might see if the PLC of the troop of boys would like to invite the girls to attend a PLC to witness how it operates.
- If they have a good model for how to plan, then that can be a model for the new troop of girls.
- Or an SPL or Junior Assistant Scoutmaster might help counsel the new youth leaders of the troop of girls. Be sure that they don’t run things, but help enable the girls to lead.
Joint Activities. An existing troop of boys might also help a lot by doing joint activities as the troop of girls gets started – it is not uncommon for some troops to start by meeting and camping alongside a larger troop. This doesn’t mean that they set up their tents right with the boys – in fact, even patrols in a single troop should have campsites set up at a distance from each other.
- “In Scout camps the tents are not pitched in lines and streets as in military camps, but are dotted about in Patrol units, fifty or a hundred yards apart or more, in a big circle round the Scoutmaster’s tent, which, with the flag and camp fire, is generally in the centre.” – Robert Baden Powell
- More useful comments and ideas for Scouting are at this site about patrol operations (yes, the troop of girls is not a patrol in a troop of boys, but the same concepts apply) and this page about all sorts of original Scouting ideas.
Publicize. And when you get a program and activities on the calendar, be sure to get that word out to your community:
- Especially prospective Scouts and their families.
- Let your Chartered Organization know of your progress.
- Share on social media about what you’re going to do.
- Use traditional media, maybe a press release about girls getting it done where they will go camping.
- Contact your troop of boys and/or other troops of girls and let them know your plans – maybe some will want to do activities with you.
Praise. And whatever the planning, during the process, be sure to praise the work and encourage the ideas.